In a misguided attempt to become more frugal one February, I decided to give up coffee for a month. I freely admit, I’m addicted to the stuff. So, when I say a month – I lasted – well – less than a month. Because I failed. Badly. After a week I returned to the café for my morning flat white.
But I did discover a lot of things about my coffee habit and my feelings around it. I felt angry (‘I work so hard, why should I deprive myself of a little luxury?’), guilty (‘If I don’t support my local café, they might go out of business’), anxious (‘How am I going to get through the day without my caffeine hit?) and bored (‘You mean I’m supposed to go straight to work?). I needed the caffeine to avoid withdrawal headaches so I tried the free coffee provided at work – and immediately went out to get some ground coffee from the nearest supermarket. It was tolerable and delivered the caffeine, but it was an ersatz replacement.
Not once did I feel virtuous, or in control – I felt unhappy and trapped. By the end of a week I had saved about £40. For the effort and the pain of the task – I felt deserved £1,000. On Sunday night as another work week loomed, I thought ‘#*$! that for a lark, I’m buying a coffee tomorrow morning’.
But I had worked out a lot.
My morning coffee, I found, was part of my ‘preparing myself for work’ ritual. If I had 10 minutes to sit down and drink a coffee out of a ceramic cup (Coffee Snob does not drink out of a takeaway cup whilst walking thankyouverymuch) I would read the headlines, text message my friends or check my emails. Then, with a bit of life-admin done – I could face the office and whatever the day could dump on me.
My coffees during the day were something else. If I was bored, or had just been left with a dreadful deadline – my reaction would be ‘I need a coffee’. What I actually needed was a break from the office. An opportunity to talk to a normal person, a walk around the block, or a 15-minute break to work out how in hell I was going to get my work done without punching anyone.
My coffees after 4pm were simple caffeine hits. I needed to go home, but I was in the office. I wanted a crutch – but I needed sleep.
My weekend coffees were chances to escape – from the house, chores and family. Sitting in a café drinking overpriced coffee wasn’t a productive use of time. It was a sheer indulgence to sit down and fritter away 30 minutes somewhere which was a significant distance from home – and then to take another 20 minutes getting home. I have no desire to have a proper coffee machine at home for precisely this reason.
After a week, I had had enough of deprivation. More than a caffeine hit, I wanted my breaks back, but decided that I didn’t always have to pay for them. I still have my morning coffee, but I rarely have the once-habitual croissant with it. During the day, I tell everyone I’m having a ‘fresh air break’ (office code for a smoking break) even though my colleagues know I don’t smoke. (This is still legit when working from home.) Nobody has batted an eyelid. I sleep a bit more, and leave work earlier. I have a weekend coffee or two, but I’m more likely just to go out for a walk. My coffee habit has lessened, but it is still there. I think it’s an improvement and my average weekly coffee spend is about £15.
Exciting? Nope. Inspiring? Hardly. Interesting? Yes.
This got me thinking deeper about what I was actually trying to buy – and I hope it does the same for you.
Want more articles like this? Sign up to my updates here and get my tips on changing your online spending habits (free)!